Marriage comes at a high price in Egypt, for everyone, including low-income families, due to traditions and social habits. But these long-held customs are being severely tested by tough economic times.
As such, Al-Azhar, the foremost centre of religious learning in the Muslim world, has launched an initiative to encourage reasonable spending on weddings and marriages and thereby facilitate wedlock for youths, many of whom cannot afford the extravagant demands of the bride’s family.
Mohamed Wardani, director of the media centre at Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy said the initiative was devised after its Al-Azhar committees dealing with fatwas (religious edicts) across the country started receiving inquiries about the escalating cost of marriage, and people asking for a religious ruling on how to respond to excessive demands by the bride or groom’s family. Another often asked question seeking a ruling is what bridal presents are acceptable religiously.
Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy is calling the initiative Letaskono Elayha (To Feel Secure). According to Wardani, the name is from Verse 21 of Surah Al-Rum in the Quran. “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts)…” according to a translation by Quran4all.net.
Wardani said many women are currently in prison because they were in debt beyond their means to meet the demands of their children wanting to get married. He said that the situation existed even before the downturn in the global economy that has led to increases in prices in Egypt. He said people are finding that following traditions in preparing for marriages is “a big burden”, thus the birth of the initiative. “Raising awareness among people to change habits may be difficult but not impossible,” Wardani told Al-Ahram Weekly.
He said the initiative addresses issues that come up during the engagement period when there should be understanding between the bride and groom and between their families. It also decides how much the dowry will be, limiting expensive presents and restricting the engagement and marriage ceremonies to relatives to cut expenses. A third phase is concerned with marriage and wedding expenses.
He recommended that arrangements take place between the bride and the groom without interference from the families so as to avoid disputes which often turn into fights, he added.
According to Wardani, in five governorates, change is taking place on the ground through the cooperation between preachers and families to raise awareness among people to concentrate on the aspects that lead to successful marriages, apart from materialistic matters.
This is not Al-Azhar’s first attempt to help Egyptian families. Since October 2018, four million people have been addressed in universities and youth and cultural centres to help those about to get married by teaching them how to choose their life partner.
Osama Al-Hadidi is executive manager of Al-Azhar Fatwa Global Centre, which provides Muslims and non-Muslims with fatwas and answers to questions about Islam. Al-Hadidi, told the Weekly that Lam Al-Shaml (Reunion) unit, which tackles divorce, resolved around 90 per cent of some 87,000 cases.
Another family-related initiative by Al-Azhar is Qorat Ein (Apple of the Eye) which aims to provide solutions to problems often encountered by families raising children.
A version of this article appears in print in the 30 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.